Havant present Eastbourne Borough with latest 'big five' test

Completing the Big Five: Eastbourne Borough welcome Havant and Waterlooville at Priory Lane tomorrow (Saturday) for another test of their mettle.

Borough celebrate a goal at St Albans - but will they be doing so when they welcome highly fancied Havant to Priory Lane tomorrow? Picture: Lydia Redman
Borough celebrate a goal at St Albans - but will they be doing so when they welcome highly fancied Havant to Priory Lane tomorrow? Picture: Lydia Redman

In August on the eve of the National South season, Sports manager Danny Bloor named his top five clubs, who would probably set the pace in the division: Dartford, Ebbsfleet United, Maidstone United, Dorking Wanderers, and Havant and Waterlooville. Since then, Borough have beaten the Stones but suffered narrow defeats against the Darts, the Fleet and the Wanderers. Now, Bloor’s men will pit their wits and skills against the fifth of those contenders.

Not that Bloor is awed by reputations. “We respect them all. No opponent in this league is easy. Welling United – below us in the table - made us work really hard for the full ninety minutes last weekend, and this Saturday will be no different.

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“Havant have a very strong, very experienced squad, and Paul Doswell is a massively respected manager. His team are possibly not quite where they would like to be – but not unlike ourselves, he has had key players missing. I speak with other managers all the time, and whether it’s Marc White at Dorking or Steve King at Dartford, we all have similar headaches!

“I chatted with Dos (Paul Doswell) only a few days ago, and he tells me that Havant have had up to eight players missing through injury. Like myself, he will be working week to week to field his strongest side.”

With about one-third of the league campaign completed, four of those Big Five, including Havant, find themselves in the top six places in the table – Dorking are the only under-achievers at this stage – but there is still all to play for. From Ebbsfleet in 4th place down to Slough Town in 14th, a mere four points cover eleven clubs – including the Sports.

Bloor’s line-up to face Havant will still be missing two key players. Chris Whelpdale – who scored both goals in Borough’s 2-1 victory at the Westleigh Stadium last season – is still under treatment for his ankle injury, while centre-back Mitch Dickenson is still suffering with a strained groin. But the manager is more than pleased with their replacements.

“Mitch and Whelps are massively important in the longer term, but we have to get them right. But it has given a slot to a player like Jaden Perez, who is playing with great energy in midfield and is proving a real bonus to us. Likewise Charlie Towning has stepped up impressively when called upon.

“And I’m delighted that we have this week extended the loan of Trent Mahorn from QPR. Trent is eager, strong and mobile and has been excellent since slotting into that centre-back position.

Bloor has triumphed with all of this season’s loan deals. Jack Currie, in from AFC Wimbledon, has been consistently skilful and confident, while Watford’s Dom Hutchinson is lethal whether in a starting shirt or a substitute role. Mahorn is the latest success. “We are really fortunate to enjoy these strong relationships with League clubs, and it’s great to know how much they trust us here at the Lane with their young talented players.”

Borough this week mutually agreed to cancel James Ferry’s contract. The 24-year-old midfielder played over 60 games in the past two seasons, but he lives in West London and teaches PE full-time in a London school, and the logistics and travel demands have proved too great. “We thank James for his efforts for the club, and wish him well,” commented Bloor. “He will always be a welcome face at the Lane.”

The manager has his eyes on one or two possible replacements, but nothing is yet confirmed. Meanwhile, the Sports’ efforts to progress in the Sussex Senior Cup were thwarted on Tuesday night when their scheduled third round tie at Saltdean was called off because of the exr=treme weather: a case of Storm Barra Beats the Borough!